On their blog, Exodus International is offering their official position on reparative therapy. This is getting a lot of attention (see here and here). The impetus appears to be the California Bill that was recently passed by the CA senate that would make it illegal to provide reorientation therapy to minors (I commented on that here).
This is what Exodus International is saying about reparative and/or conversion therapy:
Exodus International supports an individual’s right to self-determine as they address their personal struggles related to faith, sexuality and sexual expression. As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal. Our ministry’s objective is to equip the Church to become the primary place where people of faith seek support, refuge and discipleship as they make the decision to live according to Christian principles.
We believe in a “gospel-centric” view, meaning that all people, regardless of individual life struggles, can experience freedom over the power of sin through a daily relationship with Jesus Christ, a commitment to scripture, and by being a part of a vibrant, transparent and relational community of believers found in the local church. Exodus is partnered with more than 260 churches and support-based ministries who serve individuals and families experiencing a conflict between their faith and sexuality.
There is a tension here between being a Christian ministry that is “gospel-centric” and the questions that naturally arise when ministering in the area of same-sex sexuality about whether sexual orientation can change (or whether a Christian can receive healing).
I was recently contacted by a parent of a young adult how had adopted a lesbian identity. He asked me about his perception that I did not think people could change sexual orientation – and how that fit with Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 6:9-11) in which he indicates “such were some of you” – with reference to homosexual behavior (among other behaviors).
Here is part of what I shared:
When Paul writes “such were some of you,” I don’t read Paul as saying that orientation necessarily changed. Paul may be suggesting something like that, but I don’t think we have enough evidence to say that we know he is saying that. Rather, I think we can assume he is at least suggesting a pattern of behavior that used to characterize the person. … He can say “such were some of you” because — and now I think he is referring to a meaningful change due to their relationship with Christ — they have now ceased that pattern of behavior. I would note that the list also includes the adulterer. An adulterer ceases to be an adulterer when they cease a pattern of behavior (infidelity) that characterized them as a person. They may still find themselves attracted to people outside of their marriage, but they do not lust after or engage in behavior with them in a way that would characterize them as a person. I think we are on better footing to say that this is the kind of change Paul is referring to.
I went on to share a little about my views of sexual orientation change:
As for my view of whether orientation can change, I actually think it can, but my view is not one that is popular with the mainstream gay community or with conservatives in the church. Let me explain: To say that orientation can change, I mean that there may be meaningful shifts (along a continuum) away from same-sex attraction (and in some cases meaningful shifts toward attraction to the opposite sex). Some of this appears to be the result of natural fluidity, which is more so the case among females. But I don’t think that everyone can change or that anyone can change, as though it were just a matter of enough effort or of enough faith. Also, the data we have sees from our own research suggests that categorical change – 180 degrees – from gay to straight is less likely than what I refer to as meaningful shifts along a continuum (from same-sex to opposite-sex attraction).